KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today claimed to have been under pressure during the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) July 2018 investigations on him, and suggested that he had no choice but to sign the witness statements which he claimed investigators had pre-prepared.
While initially confirming that three sets of statements which the MACC had recorded from him in 2018 were correct, Ahmad Zahid this afternoon claimed that he was under duress when he signed off on every page of the statement.
Ahmad Zahid said this while testifying in his own defence in his trial over the alleged criminal breach of trust of the funds of Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation meant to eradicate poverty and help the poor and where he was its trustee and sole signatory for cheques.
Asked by lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Toran about the MACC probe where he had been shown his credit card statements as well as his recorded statement to the MACC, Ahmad Zahid confirmed that he did not tell the MACC officer who recorded his statement that he had never ordered anyone to use Yayasan Akalbudi's cheques to pay his credit cards.
Ahmad Zahid also confirmed that he also never told the MACC recording officer that he had never paid for his personal credit card bills using Yayasan Akalbudi's cheques.
When Raja Rozela highlighted that he was recorded in the statement as having told the MACC in investigations that he had issued the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques used to pay the credit card bills and that he would usually instruct his officers to handle the payment of the credit card bills, Ahmad Zahid said he did give such instructions for credit card bills to be paid but insisted that his instructions were not for Yayasan Akalbudi's cheques to be used for such purposes.
He also said his statement which was recorded by the MACC was prepared by the recording officer, and said the recording officer had used the same phrase but with different figures as his recorded answer to the payment of his and his wife's credit card bills for different months.
Ahmad Zahid claimed that he had agreed to the statement prepared by MACC when his statement was recorded, as the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques that he was shown were not the original copies but were cheque images or the captured image of the cheques, and that he did not know that some of these cheques — which were used to pay the credit card bills — contained a stamp of his signature instead of his handwritten signature.
Raja Rozela: Datuk Seri was given the best chance, the golden opportunity to deny your involvement when this statement was recorded, correct? Isn't it correct that Datuk Seri was given the best opportunity and golden opportunity to deny all your involvement about the payment of credit cards using Yayasan Akalbudi cheques?
Ahmad Zahid: I was not given the opportunity, because that statement has already been prepared and I did not know that the cheques were signed with a 'chop'.
Raja Rozela: Are you saying now the statement is not true?
Ahmad Zahid: It is not true because those cheques are not signed by me.
In his statement to the MACC previously, Ahmad Zahid had confirmed to the MACC that he had signed Yayaasan Akalbudi cheques which were used to pay for the credit card bills.
Raja Rozela: This is your statement, are you saying your statement there is not true?
Ahmad Zahid: Yang Arif, when you are under duress and the statement is already prepared, what choice do you have?
Raja Rozela: You took oath that these statements are true.
Ahmad Zahid: Yang Arif, I was under duress.
Raja Rozela then suggested that whether the original cheques or cheque images were shown to him during the MACC probe, it would still not be an obstacle for him to deny to the MACC about his involvement in the use of Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for the credit card bills.
But Ahmad Zahid replied: "Yang Arif, I ask to explain, besides there being duress, I said just now, at the end of day, until 10pm, at the end of investigations, I was really under pressure, tremendous pressure; so, when statement was prepared and I was asked to sign, I didn’t know those cheques’ signatures were stamped, so I signed (the MACC statement).
Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Previously on Tuesday, Ahmad Zahid told his lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal that he had been called by the MACC to provide his statement over five times in the past, and said he was usually at the MACC office from 8am until 6pm and sometimes until 10pm for their investigations.
Ahmad Zahid disagreed today that he had given false testimony in court by previously saying that his statements recorded by the MACC are true.
He also disagreed that he would not be hampered from denying his involvement in using Yayasan Akalbudi funds for the credit card payments, when Raja Rozela suggested there was no such obstacle whether he was actually shown the original cheques or whether he was shown multiple or no documents at all during the MACC investigations.
Raja Rozela suggested: "Even if you had to give the statements a hundred times, if you did not do it, you can just say I did not do it."
Ahmad Zahid said he did not know then and did not remember the cheques, ultimately disagreeing with this suggestion.
Raja Rozela then suggested the reason why Ahmad Zahid did not tell the MACC at all about such a denial was because he had actually ordered his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly to use Yayasan Akalbudi's cheques to pay his personal credit card bills and because he had actually allowed her to use his stamped signature.
But Ahmad Zahid disagreed to this suggestion.
Raja Rozela suggested that Ahmad Zahid did not give his denial to the MACC as he actually knew that his credit card bills were paid with Yayasan Akalbudi's funds.
Ahmad Zahid insisted that he did not know that the credit card bills had been paid using Yayasan Akalbudi's funds, and disagreed with Raja Rozela's suggestion that he had lied in court that he did not know Mazlina had used the foundation's cheques and also disagreed that he only knew how to point fingers or blame his own staff Mazlina to save himself.
Raja Rozela: I say to you, that you are only good at pointing fingers at your own staff, Major Mazlina, to save your own neck; do you agree or not?
Ahmad Zahid: But that is the reality.
Raja Rozela: Do you agree or not?
Ahmad Zahid: I don’t agree.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is also a former home minister and former deputy prime minister — is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes next Monday.